by Tamera Lynn Kraft
There is a trend among Christians to try to make people feel guilty for being joyful at Christmas time. Some even say that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, but I refuse to allow their naysaying to rob me of my joy. Here are 10 reason to feel joyful at Christmas without feeling the slightest bit of guilt for it.
10. We can be joyful even when things aren’t great. The Bible says we should count it all joy. In other words, even if we are going through a hard time because of a death in the family or because of hard times, we can still be joyful. The word count could probably be better translated command. We can command ourselves to be joyful. What if it’s is someone else who is going through a hard time? This is often an excuse for not being joyful at Christmas. After all, look at all the terrible things happening in people’s lives. I have a suggestion for you. Are you in the right frame of mind to help someone else when you are in a place of joy or a place of depression. I would suggest we are better equipped in a place of joy.
James 1:2-3 ESV “Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
9. We owe it to those around us to be joyful. Have you ever been around somebody who suck the joy of living out of everyone around him. Joy is contagious, but so is depression. That means if you decide not to be joyful, you affect everyone around you, and if you decide you will be joyful, it will also affect your friends and family. Refuse to allow someone’s bad mood to affect you. Instead be the one who heals those who don’t have joy.
Proverbs 17:22 ESV “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
8. Joy makes us healthy. If it’s true that stress and depression cause us harm physically, it’s also true that a joyful heart with make you healthy. That is why Proverbs 17:22 calls a joyful heart good medicine. Medical professionals have proven laughter is beneficial to our overall health. You can read more about it at this link.
7. Joy will give you spiritual and emotional strength. We receive fullness of joy in the presence of God, and His joy will give us the strength we need to do all the things that stress us out during the day.
Psalm 16:11 ESV “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
6. Who Want to Be a Scrooge? I sure don’t, but some Christians act like that’s exactly what they want. They claim they can’t celebrate Christmas because it’s too commercial and most people don’t celebrate it with the right motives. Who told you you can’t be joyful because other people have the wrong motives? That’s silly. Think about some of the people in the past who wanted to kill other people’s joy at Christmas: Scrooge and the Grinch. Do you really want to be like them? You may say they are mythical characters, and that is true, but they represent those who are like them.
The first man who wanted to destroy the joy of Christmas tried to kill Christ. His name was Herod, and he was not a joyful person. Herod killed his wife, two of his sons, and his wife’s extended family because he thought they were trying to usurp his authority as king. Talk about an unhappy person. He tried to kill Christ and Christmas by ordering all the male children of Bethlehem two years and under to be slaughtered.
Matthew 2:16 ESV “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”
5. The angels were joyful at Chist’s birth. They sang and proclaimed how Christ’s birth brought great joy to the Earth. Truthfully, we don’t really know what day Christ was born, and there is controversy about how December 25th was chosen. I don’t care. I know Christ was born, and I don’t know when. So unless someone comes to me with a definitive answer about what day Christ was born, I’m going to celebrate His birth on December 25th with as much exuberance and joy as the angels did.
Luke 2:20.ESV “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
3. I’m happy because of presents. They don’t have to be expensive presents. They can be homemade. The thing is I love to receive presents, and I love to give presents because it reminds me of the joy the Wise Men felt when they saw Jesus and gave Him gifts. They were so joyful they worshipped Him. Our praise and worship comes from the joy we feel about Christ who is God’s gift to us.
2. I’m filled with joy when I hear Christmas hymns. Have you ever listened to the words of those hymns. They are songs of worship, and everyone sings them at Christmas – even heathens. What a great time to worship the Lord with songs.
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
It’s easy to thank God when everything is going right, but God wants us to have a thankful attitude no matter what because He has blessed us. At the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims had a feast to thank God for His many blessings when they were going through a difficult time. Half of the people who traveled over on the Mayflower died the first winter. Yet they still set aside time to thank God because they knew they were blessed by Jesus dying on the cross for their sins. Here are 5 things we can do to be thankful in hard times.
Bring our hurts to God. Everyone goes through hard times. The reason some people get though them relatively unscathed is because they bring their hurt and pain to God instead of worrying about them and trust in Him to heal them. God didn’t only promise physical heal but emotional healing as well.
Phi 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Rehearse the blessing of God. Use a journal to write what God has done for you. Go over it when you can’t remember the blessings of God.
Psalm 103:1-2 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Take your thoughts captive. Joyce Meyer has a saying that you need to think about what you’re thinking about. That’s true. Many times we aren’t thankful because we dwell on negative thoughts that pop into our heads instead of focusing on the good things God has done for us.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Read God’s Promises in Scripture. The way to have enough faith to be thankful is to spend time reading the promises of God. He is faithful to His promises.
Isaiah 55:9-11 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Spend time praising God each day. In the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, he began and ended with praise. If we want to have a thankful attitude, we need to spend time praising God every day and not only telling Him our needs.
Psalm 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.
Have a thankful Thanksgiving.
by Carole Brown
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. –the Bible
As an author, I marvel at the sights of this beautiful planet. My imagination soars with the heights and floats with the breeze and waves. I imagine my established characters, and sometimes new ones, in these scenes.
Pictures and scenes are one of the greatest ways to foster ideas. I take LOTS of pictures in our travels. Some of them have made it into videos of my books. Others serve to keep my mind agile and brisk with ideas.
Tell me, what kind of story ideas do these pictures give you?
Do you see a young couple hiking in the northwest? What troubles do they stumble into? A dead body? A raging fire? Kidnapping? Finding themselves with new purpose? Do you imagine a family camping here and encountering wild creatures? Fishing? Hunting? Or can you see something entirely different?
For this one: I imagine one that I’ve begun and have yet to finish:
Set in Mexico, in a missionary setting, a young girl meets two very different impressive men, but which one is the right one–for her? Then, she must also figure out which one is the drug lord… Can she do both–and survive?
What do you imagine here happening?
An Amish story? an 1800s novel? A wagon train passing through? Or perhaps a country farm setting with a wife who dabbles in mystery problems in the nearby town?
To me, I can see another story, I’ve begun and hope to finish soon, set during the late 1800s, Destiny and Michael riding their horses through one of the fields he owns, arguing, both strong people who must decipher whose father was the gold thief and find love in the midst of their suspicions.
In this one, what does this scene depict in your mind?
A scary situation? Mystery? A lost child? Can you feel the terror? Do crazy thoughts of someone jumping out at you lurk in your imagination? Can you see children in an adventure book strolling this path?
To me, I can see in my Alex and Denton Davies series, the two of them walking this semi-dark woodland pathway, searching for clues or chasing after a suspect.
And one last one to stir your creative juices…
Does this bring to mind a warm, cozy feeling? Can you see an abominable snowmen lurking close by? Or can you see a couple meeting on the ski slopes? A family adventure? A lonely older person meeting his soul mate?
I see a mountain lodge where a female detective looks for a psycho suspect and runs smack dab into a love she hadn’t planned on. But can she find the bad person…and keep the love?
Can you see how we can use pictures and images to further our writing, to increase our creative juices, to spur us to keep writing, and to give us the encouragement we need when we’re stumped?
Take advantage of everything and all things that keep you writing.
Tell me, what do YOU see in these pictures? What do you use to sit down at your writing desk and add a few more pages to your document?
by Carole Brown
In one of my recent devotionals I read recently, the topic was on endurance, and the way to endure was to focus.
A runner must focus on the goal. He wants to finish his race which means he must tone his body and build his strength to endure to the end. If/when he finishes, he will have the satisfaction of gaining an earthly reward: greenery wreaths, plaques, money or ribbons.
But a Christian, to finish his race, must focus on Christ/God. Keeping our attention on him will make the hindrances seem less frightening. Focusing on God keeps our perspectives in line and correct. We want to finish our race knowing our reward will be the words: Well done, my good and faithful servant. We know it is a never-ending, permanent, and glorious reward well sought after and certainly well worth striving for.
Let us remember:
- Know ye that they who run in an earthly race runs to receive a prize, but only one obtains it? But every man that strives for mastery in this heavenly race must be temperate in all things so that we all might obtain an incorruptible crown. (paraphrased from KJV: I Corinthians 9:24-25)
Run! Focus! Win!
How do you keep your focus on God?
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
I, like many of you, am praying for another great awakening to sweep over the United States. Revivals have broken out. One is happening in my local church, but we need God to send a great awakening to this land once again. Based on revivals and great awakenings in history, here are ten things we could expect if our prayers are answered in no particular order.
1. The culture will change. Movies will mostly be clean entertainment because those will be the most profitable. Sports games, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues will begin to shut down on Sundays. It wouldn’t be profitable for them to stay open since most people will be in church. People will have no problem praying for each other or talking about God in public.
It will affect elections, laws, the government, the news media, education, and the entertainment industry. People will get married instead of living together. They will have babies after getting married. Race relations will improve drastically. The crime rate will go down. Morality will become the norm. Some won’t like it, but everything will change.
2. Wild manifestations will appear, some of God and some because of emotional excitement. Miracles and healing will become commonplace. Outbursts of joy will cause laughter. Being drunk in the Spirit will occur often. People will be “slain in the Spirit, dance, and shake. Strange things will happen. Sarah Edwards, Great Awakening Jonathan Edwards’ wife, called it “being swallowed up in God.
Some preachers and church members will lament that the services are out of order and declare this is not of God. Some people will be reacting to the emotionalism, but that’s all right. It’s easier to correct someone out of order than to bring the dead to life. The churches that don’t put God in a box will be the ones that grow that fastest. Things will get messy at times, but God will have it under control.
3. People will spontaneously meet in homes during the week for prayer and worship meetings and Bible studies. There will still be organized small groups, but meetings will also spring up organically. Every time people meet, they’ll end up praying, talking about God’s Word, and worshipping.
4. Youth and children will be a major part of the Awakening and will have Bible studies and prayer meeting in school whether they were allowed or not. They will also tell their friends about Jesus and lead many of them to Christ even if they get in trouble for it.
5. People will do radical things like give all their money to the poor, decide to become missionaries, or start street preaching outside of bars. Most churches will invite homeless people and the poor to come to their churches and they will feed them and provide services.
6. The Name of Christ will be glorified and the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be emphasized. No one will pretend everyone is going to Heaven. They will preach Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. This will be verified by the baptism, gifts, and multiple fillings of the Holy Spirit.
7. An intense wave of persecution would hit because those who are resisting God will become angry. While some are coming to God in record numbers, others will do everything they can to stop it. Some of this persecution will come from the church.
9. Churches will balance the Word of God with the Spirit of God. An intense interest in the Bible will accompany a great move of God’s Spirit and a deep spirit of intercessory prayer and worship.
10. God will require a greater surrender and yielding to Him in ways we might not like. We will learn what it means to yield to Him.
by Carole Brown
- He didn’t mean to.
- He’s only a dog.
- He won’t do it again.
- It couldn’t be him; he’s too nice.
Our grandson’s adopted dog from the pound IS a great dog. Friendly, playful, patient when Jonathan gets a little too rough, he seems the perfect dog for a child. But he has one flaw. Anytime he gets lose, he takes off. He knows you’re calling him, can offer treats, and knows his best friend (as Jonathan tells him) is calling, but looks at you and moves on to explore some more. It’s only when he’s tired of his “exploits” that he returns home.
The problem with his last escapade–which wasn’t only in exploring the local area–he killed a neighbor’s chicken.
Now I could say “He didn’t mean to,” or “He’s just a dog.” I could even deceive myself into believing “He won’t do it again.” And lying to myself in thinking he’ll never do such a thing again won’t work, because I’m pretty sure he will–if he gets the chance.
Are we any better than the disobedient, wanting-to-be-free pet dog that has a mind of its own?
How often do we push the boundaries in our personal lives? Especially knowing that God’s Word instructs us to “flee” from evil, to avoid the appearance of it. How often are we tempted to do what everyone else is doing when we know God doesn’t want us to do it?
- Is gossiping okay when the other person is in the wrong?
- Is it okay to cheat a little, specially when it’s an important test we need to pass for that advance we’ve been seeking?
- Is it okay to “give that rude person who crowded the checkout lane, a piece of our mind? After all, they need to learn, that’s NOT the right way to act.
- Is it okay to lie to when put on the spot?
Or should we “hoe the line,” be the example, set the stage–for goodness and right and God’s way?
Given, none of us are above mistakes. Given that the Bible encourages us to strive for the right, the just, the good, to be obedient and choose holiness, then shouldn’t we avoid the excuses that are conveniently there for us?
- I didn’t mean to
- I’m just human
- I won’t do it again
- I really didn’t want to; but it was necessary
Don’t get caught in the easy way. Be strong for the right, for God and for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Everyone is busy these days, but there are times in our lives a major event happens that completely overwhelms and swallows our lives for a season. Whether it be an injury or illness, a major family event, a emotional crisis, a move or major life change, or a crisis at work, these changes can swallow up our lives and leave us feeling drained.
I am currently going through one of these seasons. My elderly mom has moved to another state, and I’m helping with the move. At the same time, my husband and I are building a new house in that state. My daughter is going through a major life event. If that’s not enough, I also have a summer children’s revival schedule going on and have a deadline with my publisher. My next book is due October 1st. So, I understand what you are going through.
Here are ten things to help you, and me, when life becomes overwhelming.
Remember this is a season. Sometimes taking a breath and regaining our perspective can help immensely. This major crisis is not the new normal for your life. You will get through it.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Peter was walking on water when he kept his eyes on Jesus, but when he focused on the waves and the storm, he sank. The larger the waves, the greater our focus needs to be on the One who commands the wind and the waves. One way to do this is to print out copies of a verse you’re holding onto and put in visible places everywhere.
Exercise: Before you say you don’t have time, I’m not telling you to spend hours at the gym, but even some exercise, like a brisk walk around the block, is beneficial. Exercise has been proven to defeat depression, offer mental clarity, and increase your energy. These are benefits you need during overwhelming times in your life.
Make a To Do List. Write down EVERYTHING you need to do. Then decide what you have to do now and what can wait. You are in crisis mode right now. You can’t do the things that can wait. You’ll get to those things after the crisis is over. For now, do only what you have to do.
Ask for help. This is hard to do, but it is essential to survive this season of your life. Friends, adult children, and your church may be able to help you with certain tasks. Also, if you can hire some temporary extra help to do daily tasks, do so. Housekeeping, laundry services, and delivery services are well worth the cost during overwhelming seasons.
Don’t take on any new projects. Even if its a project you want to do, say no. You’re no doesn’t have to be permanent, but for now, you can’t agree to do anything.
Take time for Self Care. Self care is what you do to make yourself feel better. You might enjoy reading a book, watching a movies, or doing a fun event. Whatever makes you feel good inside is something you need to take time to do. If you don’t have self care no matter how busy you are, you will end up burning out.
Get away from the situation. Sometimes getting away from a situation, even for a couple of hours, can help you feel refreshed.
Talk to a Friend. Venting to someone who will listen is vital during these overwhelming times. A good friend will let you vent when you need to, but when you are going into self-pity, she will encourage you out of it.
Be filled with the Spirit of God. The joy of the Lord is your strength, so go to the source of your strength to help you through this. Pray constantly asking God for strength, peace, and joy and allowing Him to fill you with His Spirit. Put you hand on your head and pray for yourself. This is last on the list, but it is the most important step to take.